The Seattle Storm couldn't quite figure out how to keep Kelsey Plum in Seattle, but they made sure to pick up a good point guard anyway.
First, to address the question every basketball fan in Seattle has been wondering.
Was there any way at all the Storm could have figured out how to keep UW star and fan favorite Kelsey Plum in Seattle?
In a phone interview midway through Thursday night’s WNBA draft, Storm president and general manager Alisha Valavanis laughed, as if expecting the question.
“We really took every look. We looked at how possible that was,” Valavanis said. “But it’s very difficult to get the first pick in the draft, and unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the first pick three years in a row. We have so much respect for her game, and best wishes to her.”
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So, Plum was drafted No. 1 overall by the San Antonio Stars, and after picking No. 1 overall two years in a row — Jewell Loyd in 2015, and Breanna Stewart in 2016 — draft day this year was a little more low-key for the Seattle Storm.
They did, nonetheless, manage to fill some of their needs.
The Storm selected Syracuse guard Alexis Peterson in the second round with the 15th overall pick, then took West Virginia center Lanay Montgomery in the third round, 30th overall.
“We were really excited Peterson was available,” Valavanis said. “She’s a true point guard, and when we filtered through these priorities and talked about this draft, we were pretty clear about our need to bring in a point guard.”
Of course, the hallmark of a true point guard is her ability to distribute the ball, and the stats bear up in Peterson’s case.
She left Syracuse as the program’s all-time leader in assists (590) and finished her career as the Orange’s second leading all-time scorer with 1,978 career points.
“We were looking for a true point guard, and she’s a shooting guard as well. For us, those factors were key in making the decision,” Valavanis said. “Being ACC Player of the Year is also quite an accomplishment, as is her ability to move and pass the ball. She’s an unselfish player.”
Peterson said she watched the draft from a party with her family at a Crown Plaza hotel in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
“I hadn’t heard anything (from the Storm) before, so this was definitely a surprise, but a good surprise,” Peterson said. “I’ve never been to Seattle before.”
Storm coach Jenny Boucek was the person who called to tell Peterson they had drafted her.
“She said, ‘congratulations, we were so surprised you’re still on the board and we’re thrilled to have you out here,” Peterson said. “She talked about the opportunity I’ll have to learn from Sue Bird, how young the team is, and how they looked forward to having a guard like myself in Seattle.”
Peterson is familiar with several of the Storm’s players. She met Bird in Dallas at the Final Four this year, and says she played against Breanna Stewart in the national championship game last season, and also competed against Jewell Loyd two years ago.
In the third round, the Storm added some size to the roster by drafting Montgomery.
“She’s a 6-foot-5 center, and she scores well around the rim and averages three blocks a game,” Valavanis said. “That presence in the paint was attractive.”
Montgomery was a two-time selection to the All-Big-12 defensive team and led the conference in blocks per game last season, but she’s got a nice shooting touch too. She finished her Mountaineers career as the program’s career field goal percentage leader (.595).
“My strengths in college were defense and rebounding and I know how to position myself to get rebounds and block out,” Montgomery said. “It was such an honor to have my name called. I think I’ve put a lot of hard work and dedication into becoming the player I am today.”
The WVU women’s basketball threw Montgomery a draft party, and she watched the draft unfold from the team’s theater room in Morgantown, W.Va., surrounded by her teammates and family.
“I have not been to Seattle, but I know you guys have a great fanbase there and the fans are very supportive of women’s basketball,” Montgomery said. “I’m excited to get out there. It’ll be great to play with some of their veterans who’ll be able to teach me more about the game of basketball.”